French Cleat

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Forum topic by Cheyenne posted 01-01-2011 08:42 AM 6751 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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110 posts in 3104 days

01-01-2011 08:42 AM

Does anyone know where the French cleat earned it’s name? I did a wikipedia and google search and all I can find are images, videos and forums. The question has been asked within some forums here on LJ but I don’t see any historical points. There are also a lot of French cleat uses on LJ and I have used a lot myself but I’d like to know the history on how this wonderful mechanism was invented. Any facts or theories you may have will be interesting to hear. Happy New Year!

-- Cheyenne - Nashville,TN

8 replies so far

View daltxguy's profile


1373 posts in 4151 days

#1 posted 01-01-2011 09:30 AM

It’s a good question. Many woodworking and construction terms seem to be attributed to the French – French cleats, French polish, French scribe ( a system of layout in timber framing) I can only imagine that the terms might have been become popularized when France was at a peak of cultural and technological power.

More specifically most buildings in Europe are made of hollow clay brick rendered with lime plaster and mounting things in those walls is easier if a cleat was either embedded into the wall or premounted much like in adobe brick buildings where wood cleats are embedded into window and door opening to ease mounting of window or door frames later.

it’s just a theory though and I’d be interested in hearing other ideas.

-- If you can't joint it, bead it!

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

2845 posts in 3674 days

#2 posted 01-01-2011 09:45 AM

From an onlne dictionary. Maybe sheds some light?

Word Origin & History

O.E. cleat “a lump,” from W.Gmc. klaut “firm lump.” Originally a wedge of wood bolted to a spar, etc., to keep it from slipping. Meaning “thin metal plate for shoes, etc.” is c.1825.

Also called belaying cleat. Nautical . an object of wood or metal having one or two projecting horns to which ropes may be belayed, esp. as fixed to the deck, bulkhead, or stanchion of a vessel.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View spunwood's profile


1202 posts in 3073 days

#3 posted 01-01-2011 06:13 PM

I am not sure why people like the French cleat so much… Truly it just looks panful to me (see below):

-- I came, I was conquered, I was born again. ἵνα ὦσιν ἓν

View Cheyenne's profile


110 posts in 3104 days

#4 posted 01-01-2011 06:54 PM

Steve – that’s some good historical information and a good theory. I just can’t believe that google can’t tell me the exact origin. Google knows everything!

Craftsman on the lake – thanks for the dictionary excerpt.

Brandon – that’s a funny interpretation of the French cleat. I’ll pass on using that one.

-- Cheyenne - Nashville,TN

View daltxguy's profile


1373 posts in 4151 days

#5 posted 01-01-2011 09:36 PM

SD – when your country is an empire ruling over all of europe several times and then a colonial empire ruling over large portions of the western world, your technology rules. It was also French technology and power which assisted the American revolution to be successful ( which preceded the first French Empire ), so I would say they must have known a thing or two that created an influence.

I don’t make this stuff up – here is a portion from the wikipedia entry on France in the American Revolutionary War

”France provided significant economic aid, either as donations or loans, and also offered technical assistance, granting some of its military strategists “vacations”, so they could assist American troops.”

Having said that, most of the western world’s woodworking traditions are British but with immigrants came many other traditions. The log cabin for example was unknown to the British and was introduced by Baltic and Central European immigrants and they brought with them their own tools and methods. What would Lincoln have done without this imported technology?

Cheyenne – I agree – it is strange that there isn’t more about this. Maybe someone like Peter Follansbee might have an answer

-- If you can't joint it, bead it!

View Heath's profile


37 posts in 3717 days

#6 posted 06-12-2013 06:03 PM

The verb form of the word french means to cut into thin strips. Maybe that’s the origin of the term “French Cleat” rather than referring to France.

-- "I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it." - Pablo Picasso

View madts's profile


1884 posts in 2576 days

#7 posted 06-12-2013 06:12 PM


-- Thor and Odin are still the greatest of Gods.

View MNgary's profile


303 posts in 2654 days

#8 posted 06-13-2013 01:04 AM

Actually, it was my great, great, Uncle Peter who was responsible. When he emigrated from Holland it was on a French ship and he was impressed with how they hung chairs in the galley using two wedges of wood. When he arrived in America and started his trip to the Midwest to meet up with his brother he had to stop and work for grain to feed his oxen and food for his family. Besides an uncovered wagon, a wife, 5 children, and 4 ox he had little more than an ax and a string with knots every 6”. So at each stop to earn more grain and food he made and sold everyone these wonderful “French Cleats” for hanging things. As you can imagine, the local woodworkers latched onto and stole his brilliant product, but by then he was moving on towards Minnesota. When he got about halfway to Minnesota he saw another alternative and started making what he called Shaker Pegs, but that’s another story to be told later.

-- I dream of a world where a duck can cross the road and no one asks why.

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